on being honest
It’s after midnight. I’m coming to the end of a 24 hour communication black out. No phone. No social media. I’m home by myself.
I find periods of time alone and without my phone beeping and buzzing and crying for my attention like a young pup to be incredibly restorative.
I don’t subscribe to the “digital detox” mentality though. Aside from the catchy alliteration, it sounds too harsh. Like productivity, timelines and key learning outcomes.
In fact my day today has been quite unproductive in the 9-to-5-life-is-a-journey-with-goals-and-milestones sense. I slept and read and ate more than usual and showered and put on eye make-up without intending on leaving the house because why the hell not, I like to feel pretty!
To round out my day of aloneness, I watched a movie on Netflix called Boy Meets Girl. If you haven’t seen it, get to it as soon as possible.
It’s about a transgender woman in her early 20s exploring love and relationships. The film is moving and uplifting. It made me laugh and cry. I know that sounds corny and clichéd. But you know what? It’s true. So I’m not editing it.
I am a cis woman and I don’t know any trans people very well. Therefore my awareness of trans issues has always been academic and periphery. My first face to face discussion about trans issues was a couple of years ago. My friend hosted a girls afternoon to talk about girl stuff. You know, vulvas, periods, sex, relationships. It was an excellent afternoon. The conversation progressed organically and we ended up discussing a broad range of topics in a safe and inquisitive environment.
One of the women attending was at the time in a relationship with a trans woman. I can’t remember the details of that particular discussion, but I remember coming away feeling as though I had learnt a lot- in particular compassion, acceptance and understanding.
My next exposure to discussions about gender fluidity and the trans community was when I took an elective undergraduate law course on the intersection between law and sexuality. I don’t know where I was the day that the ACT A Gender Agenda representatives came to the class to give a guest lecture, but luckily the lecture was recorded because I sure as hell remember sitting at my computer, riveted listening to the story of a trans woman who had struggled for most of her life with her identity- or more accurately she had struggled with others not accepting her identity.
I cried as she recounted the fear and shame she had felt since she was a small child growing up in the 1950s. Then when she tried to live her life as a heterosexual cis man, complete with marriage, mortgage, kids and a job in the public service. She told of how she had come very close to taking her own life and knowing that she had children dependent on her was all that kept her alive. I felt relieved and and heartened when she described how those dark days are now in the past. Her family and community support her unconditionally.
That guest lecture stirred me. I felt this woman’s pain and her relief. I could hear a hint of sadness and tiredness in her tone. I really regret not being there so I could absorb her body language as well as her voice.
It seems to me that trans issues are starting to gain more public attention. So they should because the statistics of depression, self-harm, suicide and violence against transgendered people are staggering and intolerable.
However if I’m really honest with myself, what I haven’t felt until tonight, is the possibility that I could be sexually attracted to a trans person. To clarify, I am currently in the arbitrarily privileged type of relationship- cis gendered heterosexual monogamous coupling. And I am really happy. However like any other person, I can identify when I find someone attractive- whether that person is in a movie or I meet them personally.
And I have been pondering for a while the notion of being attracted to a person rather than a gender. I can identify with that. I know nominally that I am attracted to both men and women. My latest realisation is that I can see myself also being attracted to gender non-conforming people.
As I am writing this, part of me is wondering whether I am coming across as a self-absorbed asshole. I am white, cisgendered and all of my relationships have been heterosexual. That makes me so incredibly privileged and I obviously have very little notion of what it is actually like to be or be with someone who doesn’t conform to gender norms. Is it then inappropriate and crass of me to be talking in this way about trans people- as though somehow my potential dating pool has expanded?
What I saw in Boy Meets Girl is that we are all human. Full stop. The end. Sex, gender, body parts- I suspect we place way too much emphasis on their significance. And there were a couple of witty and poignant scenes in the film that exposed under harsh lighting the arbitrariness of the labels and definitions around gender and sexuality.
This, more than anything, is what hit home for me. Are you with me?